Career Advice

5 Tips on How to Return to the Workforce Following a Career Break

Reasons for career breaks are just as numerous as the types of workers who take them. You may have taken time away from work to travel, tend to your health, build new skills for a career switch, go back to school, or for child or family care purposes. Maybe you got laid off, wanted to pursue a passion project, or just needed a break.  

Whether you’ve been out of the workforce for months or years, beginning a job search after a career break can be a daunting task, especially if you’re worried about what employers might think. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to equip yourself for a successful job search and how to best present your career break to employers with our five tips below. 


  1. Determine what you’re looking for
  2. Equip yourself to succeed
  3. Market your skills
  4. Polish your application materials
  5. Use your network


Determine what you’re looking for

Not many job seekers feel confident when re-entering the workforce after a career break. It can be tempting to take the first opportunity that comes your way or settle for a position you don’t really want. 

Now is the perfect time to get really clear about what you want in your next position. Doing so before you jump into your job search will help identify which opportunities are worth your while, and which ones you should take a pass on. 

Take some time to think about your priorities. Will you be needing a flexible schedule, or are you looking for somewhere you can apply new skills you’ve developed? 

It might feel scary to ask for perks like flexible hours or remote work when you’re coming back from a career break, but given such high demand, employers are increasingly willing to adapt their work models to become more flexible. They know that offering flexibility will help attract and retain talent.

If you’re not sure exactly what you want, it can help to reflect on your past employment experiences. Figure out what aspects of previous jobs you loved, what worked well for you, and what didn’t. 


Here are 10 questions to help you start shaping your vision:


  • What kind of benefits do you want/need?
  • How much freedom and flexibility do you want to have?
  • Are you looking for a new challenge, and if so what kind?
  • What career advancement opportunities are you looking for?
  • Is it important to have opportunities for professional development?
  • Do you want to be part of a big company or a small team?
  • What is your ideal salary range?
  • How important is it to work for a company that aligns with your values?
  • Are you seeking a company that actively fosters diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What kind of company culture are you looking for?


Equip yourself to succeed

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, you may need to update your industry knowledge and skill set. Upskilling and retraining can give you a more competitive edge or prepare you to apply for jobs in a new industry. 

Even if you’re returning to an industry that hasn’t changed much during your absence, working to hone a new skill or brush up on some old ones will show employers that you’re proactive and motivated.


Here are some ways to equip yourself for success:


  • Volunteer – gaining some volunteer experience can help demonstrate transferable skills that employers are looking for. If you can find a volunteer opportunity that’s relevant to your target industry, then you’ll also be gaining valuable experience. 
  • Learn – take advantage of the myriad ways to learn new skills online with educational platforms like Coursera. Any courses you complete can be listed on your resume under a continuing education or certification section. 
  • Gain experience – If you’re learning new skills, then there’s no better way to improve than by practicing. That could mean doing some freelance work, starting a side hustle, or building your own website or app. 
  • Read – keep up with industry trends by reading the news and industry/trade publications, or by following relevant companies and niches on social media. 


By providing employers with something tangible like a certification, some volunteer experience, or an online portfolio, you’re demonstrating the value gained during your career break. And if you can show employers that your knowledge and skills are up-to-date, they’ll be much more confident in your ability to quickly and successfully integrate back into work. 

If you want to re-enter the workforce with some additional training and support (and you’re eligible), consider participating in a return-to-work program. Increasing numbers of companies are rolling out programs that offer specialized onboarding, online courses, professional development, and mentorship, designed specifically for candidates returning to the workforce.


Market your skills

If having a career gap on your resume makes you nervous, you’re not alone. There’s still a stigma attached to career breaks and some employers may be apprehensive about hiring a candidate with an extended career break. That doesn’t mean you should hide your career break, however. 

If a candidate is trying to cover up or lie about a career break, that’s a red flag for hiring managers. It’s always best to be honest and upfront with employers, and present your career break with positivity rather than try to minimize it. Keep in mind that half of employers are more likely to contact candidates who provide the context for their career breaks. 

Perceptions are continuing to change, and career breaks are gaining acceptance, in part because of how common they’ve become. According to a LinkedIn survey, almost two-thirds of workers globally have taken a career break, and half of employers surveyed viewed candidates with career breaks as an untapped talent pool. 

Against the backdrop of a looming skills gap, workers looking to rejoin the workforce can position themselves favorably, particularly if they can demonstrate desirable skills. Most (if not all) candidates gain valuable and marketable skills during their break, and come back to the workforce more motivated and better equipped to succeed than before. 


Here are some ways to frame your career break positively:


  • Include skills you gained or honed during your career break on your resume.
  • Use your cover letter to explain and provide context for your career break, as well as what you learned or gained from the experience.
  • Use the new LinkedIn feature to add a career break to your profile.
  • Prepare what you’re going to say about your career break when it comes up in an interview, including what skills you acquired or improved and how it’s prepared you for the opportunity you’re now pursuing.


Polish your application materials

At the beginning of any job search, it’s important to refresh your professional documents. After taking a career break, you should pay special attention to how you present yourself and your experience. 


Here’s how to make sure your application communicates your strengths as a candidate:


  • Use your cover letter to explain your career gap

Your cover letter is the best place to let employers know about your career gap. Writing an informative cover letter allows you to introduce yourself to employers, describe your interest in the role, and tell them what makes you the best candidate for the position. 

Without going into too much detail, use a short paragraph to explain the reason behind your career gap as well as how it benefited you. If you can demonstrate a way in which it better prepared you for a position, all the better. 


Here’s an example of how you might explain a career break in your cover letter:


After spending two years managing a household and raising two young children, I am excited to rejoin the business world. My additional planning, organizational, and budgeting skills have prepared me to better understand clients and meet new challenges as a financial planner. 


  • Use your resume to showcase your relevant experience

Because you will be addressing your career gap in your cover letter, it’s not really necessary to include it on your resume unless the break was over a year. In that case, you can include it as a section in your work experience. 


Here’s an example:


Caregiver June 2020 – August 2022

  • Managed prescriptions and administered daily medications
  • Maintained household by cleaning, preparing 3 meals/day, and washing/drying laundry
  • Performed basic hygiene care including bathing, brushing teeth, and bathroom assistance
  • Provided transportation and support for all hospital visits and medical appointments


If your career break is a matter of months, it’s okay to omit it from your resume by listing your work experience by year and excluding the months. That way, it won’t be obvious that you took a career break. 

Make sure to highlight your most relevant experience for the position you’re applying for. To do this effectively, tailor your resume to each position you’re applying for, using keywords (like specific skills or duties) from the job listing to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the role. 

If you’re not sure where to start, using a resume builder can make the task of resume writing a lot easier by providing a professional template and doing all the hard work of formatting for you. 


Use your network

One of the most effective ways to land a job is through networking, so it’s time to work those connections. 

Reach out to friends or colleagues to see if they know of any opportunities that would be a good fit for you. If they know you’re looking, chances are good they’ll refer job openings they come across to you. 

Make new connections. The internet makes it so easy to connect with other professionals. Make good use of your social media accounts, as social media is increasingly used for recruiting. Reaching out to companies and recruiters in your target industry can be an effective way to build new connections and open doors. 

The internet isn’t the only way to make new connections. You can also meet potential contacts at job fairs, conferences, workshops, or networking events. Remember that making connections and gaining referrals can be a powerful way to combat any negative stigma attached to a career break.


Author: Corissa Peterson

Corissa is a Career Advisor and Staff Writer at Resume Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.